Foods That Cause Joint Pain and Inflammation
By Kate Crosby, BS, CNP
March 29, 2017
I wish I could tell you how many times my friends tell me they need to lose weight so their joints won’t hurt. They tell me if they weighed less, they would reduce the pressure on their joints so they could play tennis, or get on the floor with their grandkids, or go cross-country skiing.
While weight can be a factor in joint pain, it is not the five pounds that one loses in a few weeks that is really making the difference. Your diet does make a difference, though. As nutritionists, we hear it every day—clients tell us their joints don’t hurt once they eliminate inflammatory foods.
Arthritis is Joint Inflammation
There are approximately 100 different kinds of arthritis. For instance, osteoarthritis is the wear and tear variety, while rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes joint deterioration. It is the inflammation associated with arthritis that causes the breakdown of the joint. Knowing that begs the question, “What causes the pain in my joints?”
Sugar Causes Inflammation
Research tells us that sugar causes inflammation—plain and simple. That means the cake, ice cream and soda that people are eating and drinking is causing their inflammation. It isn’t just the sweets that cause inflammation, it is also the pasta and fries. For example, three cups of cooked pasta becomes 25 teaspoons of sugar, or glucose, in your body. That is a lot of sugar! A lot of sugar means a lot of inflammation. Did you happen to notice these are the same foods that cause weight gain?
Trans fats are another red flag. They are found in processed foods like French fries, muffins, cup cakes and flavored creamers—all of which cause inflammation. So, when I see people eating cakes, fries and crackers, I see them adding to their pain and inflammation.
In addition to sugar and trans fats, clinically, we find that two additional foods create inflammation for many people: gluten and dairy products. Other common foods, such as corn and soy, can cause inflammation in people who are sensitive to them as well. Working with a nutritionist is important because this process may require a special eating plan for each client.
What I wish anyone with joint pain understood is that when they eat better, it is not the weight that eases their joints (unless we are talking 20 and 30 pounds or more), it is the food choices that stop the inflammation and also allow them to lose weight. Imagine that—a twofer!
Supplements to Reduce Inflammation
In addition to improving your diet by removing foods that cause you inflammation (processed foods, sugar and trans fats, as well as refined oils, gluten and dairy), there are a few supplements that can help reduce inflammation in your joints.
- Omega 3 Fish oil: An essential fatty acid that reduces inflammation in joints, arteries and the brain.
- Glucosamine/chondroitin/MSM: These specific nutrients all support healthy joints, reduce joint deterioration, and are especially helpful in healing joints.
- Sam-e: Another supplement that supplies nutrients for strong joints and connective tissue, and can be effective for arthritis and fibromyalgia.
Breaking the cycle
How can you break the cycle of pain and inflammation? Making dietary changes doesn’t need to be scary or overwhelming. Most people with pain and inflammation just need some help coming up with an eating plan. So maybe it is time to sign up for an individual nutritional consultation and work with a nutritionist to come up with a strategy that will help break that pain and inflammation cycle.